A Few Things

July 1, 2016


Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. Happy July! How are you? Are you getting ready for an awesome 3-day weekend? What are your plans? Barbeques? Fireworks? Parades? We haven’t made our July 4th plans yet, but I’m thinking a visit to Omaha Beach and the WWII Military Cemetery would be a good and patriotic way to mark the day. In fact, it’s the exact same thing we did for Independence Day 5 years ago. Look at these cute little kids!


Have you ever been? Maybe we’ll include some visits to other spots along the D-Day Beaches, too — like Pointe du Hoc.

For us, another big thing happening this weekend is switching houses. When we first looked for rental places near our cottage (this was months and months ago), we found a gorgeous home that was available for July and August, and we reserved it right away. But since we arrived in June instead of July, we’ve been renting a different home until the original one is ready for us. And tomorrow we switch!

I’m off to get everyone packed up, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Really good writing. The Uterus Must Go.

- Has physics gotten something really important really wrong?

- Ranking the pain of stinging insects.

- Why constant learners embrace the 5-hour-rule.

- Studies on the effects of the “princess” culture.

30 foot tall day-glow totems. I would LOVE to see these in real life.

- Interesting essay including notes on how dating came to be.

- A solar roadway coming to Missouri. Route 66!

- I’ve read articles predicting the demise of email for years, but this one says You Can’t Kill Email. Thoughts?

- Rape case involving a 13-year-old girl dismissed because her body is “well-developed”.

- An idea about addiction being a type of learning disorder. (NYT)

On burnout. “Can you imagine working the way you do now for the next 10 or 20 years?”

Heart clouds!

I hope you have a marvelous, celebratory, fireworks-filled weekend! Light lots of sparklers for me, please! I’ll meet you back here next week. I miss you already.



French Food

June 30, 2016

homemade panna cotta with raspberries and wild strawberries

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

We are coming up to our second weekend in France, and the end of June, and I can hardly believe it. Time is already flying by too fast. There is so much I want to report to you about our time here so far. The plans we made at our meeting with the architect. What it’s like coming back to this place compared to coming here for the first time. The old favorite spots we’ve visited. The new happy spots we’ve explored. Our plans for the next 7 weeks. The friends we’ve met up with. The views. The weather. So much!

But it is very late here — past midnight (I still haven’t gotten on a good French time schedule) and I really need to head to bed. So I will keep it short and just tell you this: the food really is the best here. They spend time on food, they make it a priority, and they eat well. The quality is so much better. I already knew this, but somehow I had forgotten.

Tonight we met friends for dessert at the lovely Caroline’s house, and her daughter made panna cotta, topped with raspberries and wild strawberries from their yard. It was so good, I had two servings!

P.S.  — News from the Oakland remodel too! The contractor sent photos. Post coming.


Chicken Salad with Blue Diamond Almonds-21

By Gabrielle. Photos by Lindsey JohnsonThis post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds. Blue Diamond Almonds understands what it takes to be the best. That’s why they are proud to be an official sponsor of USA Swimming. Visit Lane To Greatness for a chance to win $5,000 to fuel your dreams of greatness (whatever they may be!), get a Blue Diamond Almonds coupon, recipes, and more. 


We try to stay pretty active all year long, but during June, July and August, it kicks into high gear. Whether it’s a trip to the beach to swim and play volleyball, a long evening walk through the countryside, hanging out at the park having a picnic, or even a full day of yard work, it’s always nice to have a go-to meal to help keep us fueled. I know it may seem like a no-brainer or even kind of funny, but chicken salad — the standby of baby showers and grocery store delis — is a fantastic thing to bring along on an adventure, or keep in your fridge as an after-workout meal.

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This chicken salad includes chopped Whole Natural Blue Diamond Almonds, and uses Greek yogurt with a bit of seasonings as the dressing, making it super protein-packed. The protein (and fiber) help keep us fuller, longer. The yogurt gets major bonus points because it has way more protein than using mayo or sour cream, and you can’t beat that yummy tang. (Thick, plain yogurt is a staple at our house!) And almonds are always on our list of snacks — with loads of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, they are great to keep on hand to chase away the “hangries.”

While we’re eating protein-packed recipes to fuel our workouts and adventures, Blue Diamond is helping fuel Team USA Swimming athletes. Blue Diamond Almonds and USA Swimming both understand what it takes to be the best, which is why Blue Diamond Almonds is proud to be the Official Snack Nut of USA Swimming. And they want to fuel YOU in your “lane to greatness” too! You can visit Lane to Greatness for a chance to win $5,000 to help fuel your dreams of greatness (whatever they may be!), get a Blue Diamond Almonds coupon, recipes, and more.

Chicken Salad with Blue Diamond Almonds-39 Chicken Salad with Blue Diamond Almonds-4

Now back to the salad — it’s up to you how to serve it. You can use it to top Romaine leaves or another leafy green, scoop it up with your favorite crackers, or use a few hearty slices of bread, or a whole grain tortilla, to turn it into a sandwich or wrap. You can even add chicken salad to a hollowed out tomato or bell pepper, or serve it on a bed of mixed greens. So many options! And speaking of options, this recipe makes a very good, basic chicken salad. I’ve included some variations below because it’s fun to change things up once in awhile so you don’t get bored. The possibilities are endless.

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It’s a big timesaver to use leftover cooked chicken for this recipe — rotisserie is perfect for this, or you can cook a few extra chicken breasts for dinner one night to use in the salad and get you through with a week’s worth of snacks or lunches. And if you want to turn this into a heartier meal, maybe for dinner, then I recommend serving this up with a side of grilled or roasted veggies to get even more plant-powered goodness into your day. But it’s easy as can be to make ahead and will keep for days and days in the fridge. And it really is one of the best things to pack into your cooler to keep you fueled all season long.

Click here for the recipe and notes!


By Gabrielle.

I love Lisa’s honesty and charm. She admits she’s committed to a tidy house — she says it’s a Southern hospitality thing, “A home should be picked up so it will feel warm and welcoming to guests.” But she also admits to hiding all the typical family mess behind closet and cabinet doors when she’s getting ready for a photoshoot. I can relate!

This is a lady who really loves her life and has a sense of humor about it all. I’m so happy to share her vivaciousness with you today. Welcome, Lisa!

We are the McDaniel family. If the walls of our Creole cottage could talk, they’d speak of dreams and challenges and hard work. They’d speak of life. And that life would be ours.

Beau is my best friend, business partner, and hubby of nineteen years. (Ya’ll, he’s still the man of my dreams!) Reece, 16, and Aidan Gray, 13, are our sweet, sweet sons, and Lorén is our dreamy-eyed seven-year old daughter. Although our home isn’t a palace or a castle, a princess definitely lives here. We call her Lorénderella!

I almost forgot to mention the newest addition to our family. Dexter is our moose-sized Maltese — 16 pounds! — who trots around our home with the patience of a saint. We often find him being strolled around the park in doll prams, dressed up in dresses, and carried around like a baby. The dear puppy takes it all in stride, as he and Lorén are best buds. I swear he hides angel wings beneath his white fur.

More wisdom and wonderful views, just ahead!



By Gabrielle.

Want to talk hair today? It’s been ages since I shared a hair post. And this is a good one. In fact, I can’t believe I’ve never told you about this before! It’s a total life saver if you ever need to cover grey roots in a pinch.

I can remember exactly when I first tried it. I was on our 3-week long roadtrip with the whole family. It was a few summers ago and I was wearing my hair very dark and quite long at the time. I had major grey coming in at the roots, but I was ignoring it because I was on the road. Alas, I was also ignoring the fact that on the last leg of the trip we had a wedding to go to.

The morning of the wedding, I made an appointment for a blowout at a drybar in Salt Lake City, and was bemoaning my roots to the stylist. She said, “No worries. I can fix them super fast.” She pulled out this spray and filled them in. It took like 5 seconds and looked amazing! It was like this photo, I swear.

With no additional urging needed, I bought the bottle then and there. It felt like a goldmine and it wasn’t even expensive. From that time forward, whenever I had to stretch the time between color appointments, I would use it. The bottle lasted for ages, but the color was temporary. It would shampoo out the next time I showered. I didn’t like to use it daily, but if I had to be in front of the camera when my roots were starting to come in, it was the perfect quick fix.

During my blonde days, I didn’t use root concealer, and the bottle was sitting forgotten in the back of my cupboard until a couple of weeks ago. My roots needed color in the worst way, but I was waiting till the last possible moment to get my hair colored before we left for the summer. I had an event in San Francisco where I wanted to look my best and was wondering what to do about my hair. And then tada! I remembered the bottle of root concealer. I pulled it out — my original bottle — and took care of business. You can bet I packed it with me for this trip!

I have no idea if it works for dark roots and light hair. But if you have grey/light roots and dark hair it’s pretty dang genius. The only downside: it will come off on your fingers if you scratch your scalp. And it will come off on your pillow case too. So keep that in mind. Otherwise, it’s awesome! Oh and one other tip: with long hair, it was mostly the part on the top of my head where the grey showed and I could apply the root concealer myself, but with short hair there are lots of parts where the grey shows, so I have Maude or Ben Blair help me with any angles where I can’t see what I’m doing.

How about you? Have you ever tried it? Do you have a particular brand that you prefer? There are tons out there, though I’ve only tried Style Edit (and I have no complaints). Any other tricks for stretching the time between hair appointments? Or maybe you’ve embraced the grey and think this whole idea is crazy? I’d love to hear!


Chateau Bagnole de Lorne

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

We’ve only been in France for a few days and have already seen a handful of castles. I love seeing them! Especially when they’re unexpected, almost hidden away. You’re driving along, happen to glance to your left at just the right time, and a Cinderella tower catches your eye off down the hill. Of course, you then immediately turn the car around and do a little exploring. : )

Though some of the chateaus in the area are still private residences, most seem to be owned by the town or city, or are part of the National Parks & Landmarks system. Many you can even rent out for parties or weddings. As we walk around the grounds or tour the insides, the kids talk about what it would be like to live there. It’s fun to imagine. How many bedrooms are there? Could it fit all the cousins if we lived there? Would we eat in fancy dining rooms instead of the kitchen? Ride around the grounds on horseback? June wonders if the people who lived there wore fancy dresses.

But during this trip, my thinking has shifted a bit. I’ve been listening to an audiobook with Ben Blair called What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly. In it, he talks about how an average citizen in our era has a much better quality of life than anyone who lived in these castles — say a hundred years ago. We have easier access to better quality food. We have better hygiene (including toilets and plumbing). We have better access to medical care. We have far better transportation — faster and more comfortable. We can heat or cool our homes easily. We have access to whole libraries of information in our phones.

Though I’d never thought of it myself, I tend to agree, and I find this line of thinking appealing. I’m generally in the camp of the-world-is-amazing-and-gets-better-every-day vs. the-world-is-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket (though I admit this political cycle has through me off a bit). What’s your take? Do you agree? Do you think you live better than royalty? Have you ever had the chance to tour a chateau? What did you think of it? Personally, I find the exteriors more appealing than the interiors.

P.S. — I realize the appeal of “royalty” for many people relates more to power and money than it does to quality of life, but I still think the idea that these days most people live better than royalty makes for an interesting shift in thinking.


A Few Things

June 24, 2016

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Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. Happy Friday! How are you? Did you have a good week? Mine has absolutely flown by. It always does when I’m in a happy place with my family. We’re just so delighted, and feeling so lucky, to be here! As we drove to town yesterday, we saw a sign for a Vide Grenier (it’s like a community tag sale) coming up in our old neighborhood. So we’ve decided that’s our big plan for the weekend. How about you? Anything fun you’re looking forward to?

I’ll keep this update super short (because our wifi hasn’t been restored yet), but I wanted to make sure I shared a few things with you before I sign off:

Xanadu! A few weeks ago I mentioned our dear friend, Chris Clark has been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gherig’s disease). Chris is an award-winning play director, and to support him and his family, the original cast of his legendary production of Xanadu is putting on new performances of the show this week and next. Magical! Plus, there’s a silent auction too! Find ticket info and donation info here.

Christo’s newest project. When we lived in New York, our family (along with millions of others) saw Christo’s Gates in Central Park. I love it so much. Have you ever had a chance to see his work? (NYT)

- Woah. I still stunned at this news. Feels like end of days. So awful.

- How to do unemployment right.

- How to fix feminism. (NYT)

- How to escape from a cult in the 21st century.

- Oh my word. So good! Did you see Maya Rudolph’s commercial for Seventh Generation? She’s the best.

- Why I Gave Up on Waiting.

Singing to the dying.

- On the myth of the catty woman. (NYT)

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.


P.S. — We made the most of our 6-hour layover in Stockholm on Tuesday. You can see a photo at top. We took a train into the city and ate a big Swedish feast, then walked around Old Town, listening to live music and taking in the gorgeous city. Such a cool place!



June 23, 2016


Photo and text by Gabrielle.

We’re here! We made it! We are renting a lovely, light-filled home in the lower-region of Normandy — about 2 hours west of Paris. We arrived here yesterday afternoon, unpacked, filled the fridge and cupboards with all of our favorites, napped (darn jetlag!), took a long walk through the countryside in the evening, and stayed up way too late. It doesn’t get dark here until after 10:00 PM, so it didn’t feel that late, but it was.

Today, we drove by our cottage (but didn’t go in because we still need to pick up the keys), and we took the kids to school pickup so they could connect with old friends.

This is just a mini-update to say hello. I’m still processing everything so I can share it with you, but oh my goodness, I didn’t realize how much being here would feel like coming home.

P.S. — During the night, there was a big lighting storm that took out the wifi. Not sure when it will be back on, so I’ll be working at cafés and libraries until it does. Life in the countryside! And I don’t mind one bit.



By Gabrielle. Limited edition print by Helen Dardick.

Despite a few momentous rough patches, Zoe’s story is a pure delight. I could not stop smiling all the way through, which is such a testament to her storytelling skills and also her inherent positivity.

What a wonderful bunch of words I get to share with you today! Welcome, Zoe.

Gorgeous story, straight ahead.


blueberry-syrup 7

By Gabrielle.

Do you ever go through fruit phases or obsessions? Sometimes, I seem to go weeks or months at a time only craving one sort of fruit. It’s like grapefruit for miles, and then I lose interest for a couple a years. Or kiwi for months, and then I don’t even notice them again unless the kids make a specific request.

Well, over the past few weeks, it’s been blueberries. I buy the big carton and eat the whole thing. I like them fresh, and small, and tart-sweet. Oh, and firm. If they’re even a tiny bit squishy, they are relegated to the “save for smoothies” pile and put in a freezer bag.

blueberry-syrup 4 blueberry-syrup 10

So when Liz Berget told me she had a delicious, simple, blueberry syrup recipe, I asked her to send it over. She shares the easy recipe — and suggestions for what she eats it with — below. But before we jump into the details, I’d love to hear: what are your fruit cravings these days? And do your kids have any favorites? Blueberries bring strong opinions out of my kids. For example, Oscar adores them and always has. But Betty doesn’t like them at all. How about you?

Click here for the recipe and notes!



By Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Sleep Number®. 

For many years when we first became parents — especially the three-kids-age-4-and-under phase — we set early bedtimes for our children. Like really early. Like 5:30 PM early. 6:00 at the latest. It’s almost hard for me to imagine it now, because our life is so different these days, but at the time, nap schedules and bedtimes were a big deal for us.

Especially when they were little, my kids really soaked up their sleep. They would wake up, be busy, busy, busy, then zonk out for naps, then be busy, busy, busy until 5:00 dinner. After that it was baths and bedtime stories, and then they were out for the night. We’re talking 12 to 15 hours of sleep total (naps + night sleep) over a 24 hour period. Sleep is how they recharged for their very busy lives as two-year-olds. : )

At times, our regular sleep schedule made things awkward and was disruptive. We were fine doing social things after 7:00 PM — we’d get a sitter and feel confident that our kids would be asleep the whole time we were gone. But if there was a party or family gathering that took place during the 5:00 to 7:00 range, we would usually leave early, or decline to attend. I remember getting side-eye from other mothers, and even relatives, thinking we were ridiculous and that our sleep schedule was too strict. And maybe we were ridiculous.

But though it wasn’t always ideal, the strict sleep schedule offered huge benefits for us. From what I could determine, all that sleep made for happy, good-natured kids, or at least seemed to help in a big way! At some point I connected the dots that if my kids were acting out, they were probably tired. (I should have assumed this from the beginning, because I’m the same way. For me, exhaustion and bad manners are directly correlated.)

In addition to feeling like I was helping my kids be their best selves, I also LOVED having quiet evenings where I could work on my own projects. In fact, without early bedtimes, I don’t think I ever would have managed to start Design Mom.

So now I’m curious. What time do you put your kids to bed? Is it a specific hour? Or does it range depending on the evening? And have you ever instituted early bedtimes for your kids? If yes, did it work for your family? Why am I asking? Two reasons: First, I love conversations about sleep — since it’s a universal thing we experience as humans, everyone has an opinion or thought to share, and in the conversations, I seem to always learn another way of thinking, another point or view, or another way to approach life.

The second reason is because, as I mentioned in March, I’m delighted to be partnered with Sleep Number®. I’ll be hosting 4 sleep-centered discussions this year and today’s post is the second one. You may already know this, but Sleep Number is the leader in sleep innovation and was ranked “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Mattresses” in 2015 by J.D. Power. They are dedicated to providing solutions that offer quality sleep.


What kind of innovations? Lots! Here are three: 1) Sleep Number created a bed that allows couples to adjust the mattress firmness on each side of the bed. One person favors super firm, the other likes super soft? No problem! It’s no surprise the Sleep Number bed was named Best Bed for Couples by a leading consumer magazine.

2) Sleep Number beds are available with SleepIQ® technology — sensors inside the mattress measure average breathing rate, average heart rate, and movement to show you the quality of your sleep and help you make adjustments to make your sleep even better. Sleep IQ is super easy to use. Nothing to wear, nothing to turn on. All you have to do is sleep.

3) Sleep Number innovates for kids as well! They have a whole section of products focused on helping kids get better sleep — like their Sleep IQ Kids™ bed. It’s a smart bed that adjusts with your kids as they grow, and it has an optional head-tilt feature which is perfect for those nights when they have a stuffy nose.

Want to check out their innovations for yourself? You can find the nearest store here, and find out about new offers and promotions here.

The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom

These days, we still have set bedtimes but they are much later. 5:30 PM isn’t even an option for us any more, and that’s fine. Instead, the goal is just consistency. Keeping to a regular schedule as much as possible makes a big difference for us. There are still exceptions — nights were we don’t make it home until later — but we aim for a regular schedule and we mostly make it.

How about you? Have you found it harder to keep a set bedtime as your kids get older? Or maybe you have a baby or toddler who seems to be schedule-resistant? Also, if you had to rank the importance of diet, exercise and sleep on how they influence your health, what would you put first? (No surprise, I would put sleep first. I love my sleep!)

P.S. — Sleep Number did a survey about American Kids and sleep. Here are the results.


By Gabrielle. Photos by Karen E. Photography.

Diane is a person who doesn’t like to waste time. I quite enjoy that quality in people, don’t you? And, in fact, Diane possesses a truckful of enviable qualities I could either list from one to one hundred — or you could just read the words she’s left here with us today.

If you’re feeling not-so-strong, I encourage you to stick around for Diane. If you’re feeling scared or alone or overwhelmed, please stay. This is one to read now and come back to later. I promise. Welcome, Diane. I am so glad you’re here.

My name is Diane and I don’t like to beat around the bush. Ha! How’s that for an introduction? Chit-chat makes me uncomfortable, I don’t have a poker face, and I am compelled to acknowledge the elephant in the room. He’s too distracting! I’m a 41-year-old stay-at-home mom who is a tomboy at heart yet loves a maxi dress on occasion. I can’t live without my running shoes and feel freest on the trails at sunrise.

I created this unbelievable family with my soft-spoken, brilliant husband, Will, who is wise beyond his years (which are three less than mine) and utterly unflappable. He can grow a five o’clock shadow well before noon, and I am lucky to have him as the captain of my pompom squad. Like any smart girl who was raised by a wonderfully supportive father, I looked for the boy who was most like him and then I married him.

When Will and I were engaged, I said, “I want to have two girls so we can give them each one of our sisters’ names.” It’s like I proclaimed it from that moment! Dylan Christine was the first and nothing makes me happier than the special bond she shares with my confidante and sister, Chrissy. Dylan has always been acutely observant and very emotionally intelligent. She thrives on social interaction and asked at two years old to go to school so she could “play with little boys and little girls.” Story time at the library simply wasn’t enough! Dylan truly smiles from her heart and I could stare into her blue-gray eyes for the rest of my life and be happy.

Taylor Camille is our little goof who giggles when she toots and then turns around and proclaims that she is never ever eating dinner again. I don’t know if my sister-in-law, Cami, wants to lay claim to either of these traits! But Taylor will hug and kiss you until you feel that everything is right with the world. She is immensely creative, innately funny, and she is going to blaze her own trails for sure. Taylor was simply born with a confidence that is written all over her face, and when she catches my eye and flashes a knowing wink, my heart melts every time.

Diane’s story, straight ahead. You won’t want to miss it.


Flying to France

June 20, 2016

By Gabrielle.

Waving hello from the Oakland Airport! Our bags are checked. We’ve gone through security. Water bottles are filled. Snacks are at hand. We have about 30 minutes till our flight boards. Then it’s on to Paris, France!

But before we get to France, we have a longish layover in Stockholm, Sweden. Ben Blair and I spent a lovely week in Sweden two summers ago, but our kids have never been, so we’re hoping to take a little adventure while we’re there. Then, we have a short flight to Paris. Our flight arrives around 8:30 in the evening; we’ll rent a car and head straight to a hotel for the night (with a possible fieldtrip to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle). Then, the next morning, we’ll drive to Normandy — it’s about a 3 hour drive to our destination.

That’s a lot of different stops and transitions in a short time — I’ve tried to forewarn the kids that they are very likely going to feel crabby and impatient before we actually get to our destination. But it’s worth it: Two whole months of our family being together. Heaven!

We’re all super excited. Lots of reminiscing and anticipation going on — we’ve been going through our old travel photos and watching some of the Olive Us videos we filmed in France (like Betty in Paris).

Crossing our fingers for smooth travel! Feel free to follow along on Instagram.

P.S. — I did my first Facebook Live video cast just before we left the house today. I gave a little tour of our master bedroom and bath — it’s going to be transformed while we are away! So if you want a peek at the “before” you can check it out.


A Few Things

June 17, 2016


Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? How was your week? Ben Blair and the 5 oldest arrived home around late last night (delayed flight), exhausted but happy. Another terrific Cousins Week under their belts! They are sleeping in (as they should be), but when they wake up, we will be in full prep mode for our big summer trip to France.

While they sleep in, I’m heading to my stylist for a trim and a color (just my roots, nothing fancy). This is the last possible appointment I could get before the trip — my stylist put it on the calendar two months ago so that I wouldn’t forget. She knows me so well! We’re hoping my cut will last for the whole two months so I don’t have to worry about it while I’m there. And she’s sending me with some hair color so that I can touch up my roots myself. She’s the best!

The rest of the prep will mostly be laundry and packing and cleaning the house. Plus a handful of errands. And then a few tasks that I haven’t remembered yet. I’m feeling quite calm about the whole thing, but it’s very possible that I’m fooling myself and will panic sometimes between now and Monday afternoon. : )

I’m off to my appointment now, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- This poem is beautiful and has me crying really hard.

- Read this for sure. I was never raped, but

Meet a Muslim.

- Cute! Grandma’s well-mannered searches.

- Turns out many brands that market exclusively to women have few or no women among their executives or on their boards.

- I’m pretty sure I’ve shared this before, but in case you haven’t seen it yet, this is a smart, fair, video discussing the complexities of the gun problem in America. One quote from near the end: ”Depression with a gun is more dangerous than depression without one. Likewise, fights, domestic disputes, road rage, drunkenness — all much more dangerous with a gun than without.”

- The Mediocre Mom’s Guide to Raising a Child With Down Syndrome.

- Do we ever make time to sit and think anymore? (NYT)

- Today’s teens smoke less, drink less, and have sex less than any teens on record.

- Marimekko! How it became a women design powerhouse.

- I know this wonderful couple (and their darling kids) from Alt Summit and I’m heartbroken about what they’re going through.

Aliens! (NYT)

- The Small Animal That’s Making a Big Difference for Women in the Developing World.

- Happy Friday!

I hope you have an amazing weekend. Happy Father’s Day to all the good men in our lives! As I’ve mentioned, we’re headed to France on Monday and I won’t be at my laptop, but I have some great stuff scheduled. So meet me back here next week. I miss you already.



By Gabrielle.

I could listen to Jaime talk about her day job…well…all day. What is it about museums that seem so romantic? In addition to that career, she is also an artist and a mom. How does she balance it all? I’ll let her tell you.

Welcome, Jaime! We’re so happy you’re here.

Hey everyone! I’m Jaime. I’m an artist, museum professional, and working mama from Kansas City. I’m doing my best to juggle a growing creative career with my day job that pays the bills…and student loans. From my cubicle to yours, here’s what a day in my life looks like.

It begins when the baby monitor blinks on, usually around 7:15 am. My husband pops out of bed to get our daughter, Frances (16 months), and brings her into our room. We snuggle for a while, and and then I try to distract her with a book or something interesting in our room so I can get ready for the day. That transition from cuddling my baby to starting the day is always a struggle.

Tyler and I tag team, keeping an eye on Frances. She’s into everything these days. The morning always goes by quickly. Dress, teeth, diaper change, make bed. Check, check, check. Next we head downstairs to get the coffee going, feed the dog, and get our things together to head out the door.

Breakfast is quick and on the go. Today I make some peanut butter toast, and grab a banana and a greek yogurt to eat at work. At this point in our lives, we make food — not meals. We throw things together with simple ingredients. Cooking is not our favorite activity, but we love good food. We’d probably eat out for every meal if we could.

My mom arrives around 8:15 am to be with Frances for the day. We split the weekdays between my mom, Tyler, and I. We chat for a few minutes and then Tyler and I head out the door.

Her day job looks so cool! Come see!



By Gabrielle. Photo by Katrina Davis.

Let’s talk about love! A couple weeks ago, I read an opinion piece in the New York Times called Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person. It was written by Alain de Botton and puts forth the idea that there isn’t a perfect person out there for us, and that choosing a partner is more about finding someone with whom you can tolerate each other’s differences. He writes, “Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for.”

Did you get a chance to read it? What did you think? It’s a really practical, unromantic approach to “falling in love”, but I find this idea: “We need to swap the Romantic view for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them,” to ultimately be very loving. I feel like it allows us all to be human and make mistakes.

And then, I read another article, called “We Don’t Always End Up With The Loves Of Our Lives (And That’s Okay)” by Heidi Priebe. She believes in BIG LOVE, but she’s practical about it too. Her main idea is that even if we experience deep, intense love with someone, we may not end up with them. But she okay with that, because, “Some people can love you more in a year than others could love you in fifty. Some people can teach you more within a single day than others could teach you over the entire course of a lifetime.” Do you agree?

The articles made me wonder, where do you fall on the romantic scale? Is romance important to you? Do you believe in soulmates? Do you think everyone has a “love of their life”? And did you find yours, or marry yours? As for me, I can appreciate a good romantic movie or book now and again, but I don’t crave it a ton. I don’t know if romance is a love language, but if it is, I don’t think it’s my love language.

That said, I definitely consider myself in love with Ben Blair. Our marriage is the happiest thing in my life. Does that mean we were meant for each other? If I had married someone else, would I feel the same way? Do I just enjoy being married? Maybe so, but that’s almost too practical for me. It’s more appealing to me to feel like I got really lucky and found the best possible match for myself.

There’s another line in the first article that also got me thinking. He writes, “What matters in the marriage of feeling is that two people are drawn to each other by an overwhelming instinct and know in their hearts that it is right. Indeed, the more imprudent a marriage appears (perhaps it’s been only six months since they met; one of them has no job or both are barely out of their teens), the safer it can feel.”

I totally recognize that thinking in our culture! In fact, I’ve experienced it myself — Ben Blair and I married just a few short months after we starting dating. How about you? If you’ve ever been married, how soon was the engagement and wedding after you met your significant other? Any other good love articles you’ve read lately?

P.S. — Do you wear your wedding ring?


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By Gabrielle.

I’m committed to sharing delicious, easy, dinner recipes here on Design Mom to help us all through the summer. And I’ve got a great one for you today: Easy 30-Minute Fajita Bowls!

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Liz Berget, one of my go-to recipe geniuses, is expecting a baby, and has other little ones at home, too. So she’s a pro at simple dinner recipes that appeal to the whole family.

I especially love this recipe because it’s so easy for the kids (and me!) to customize. Oscar can skip the cheese, Betty can skip the limes, I can skip the cilantro.

Click here for the recipe and notes!


By Gabrielle.

No matter which corner of Melinda’s home I gaze upon, I can’t help but feel a weighty sense of tranquility. A hush, a calmness, much like the early pages in The Napping House! Isn’t that funny? Do you ever look at a home and become overwhelmed by a first impression? Like, Maureen’s house prompted thoughts of adding way more color, ModFruGal’s tour had me turning chairs to face our gorgeous view outside, and Lynne Knowlton’s treehouse…well…I love a treehouse!

But what’s most interesting to me is how Melinda’s home truly matches her. Read her words. Soak up her thoughts. You’ll feel a hush, a calmness come over you. I honestly love when that happens. When a home so twins with its owners that it all feels right and meant to be.

Welcome, Melinda! I can’t wait to share you with everyone.

When I was ten, my parents moved my siblings and I to Northeast Ohio for my father’s job. My parents bought a house built in 1931 that comfortably had the living space for a family of six, but needed quite a bit of work to say the least. Throughout the years, there were kitchen renovations, bathroom remodels, landscaping projects, just to name a few, that were all done in such a way as to honor both our family and the home.

My mom and dad never stopped working on that house the 26 years they lived there. It didn’t matter, though. It was beautiful, warm, and home which is how my husband and I felt when we first stepped into our own home almost 16 years ago.

We were young, newly married, and looking for a starter home. We both had gotten jobs in central Ohio, my husband in sports management and myself a position as a first grade teacher. Neither one of us were that familiar with the area which explains why when our realtor asked about neighborhoods we would be interested in we mentioned one well out of our price range.

After a few discussions about what we were looking for and our budget, our realtor mentioned a neighborhood that had tree lined streets, old homes, and character. Those words were music to my ears. We spent a number of days looking at these old homes, but were disappointed by the updates many of them had seen over the years. Homes built in 1922 had additions added on over time that did not suit the time period or home itself.

After seeing quite a few houses, our realtor drove into what was to become our driveway. I can remember falling in love with the charm of the front of the house, the original oak floors, and the large backyard. There were definitely many projects to be done, like ripping out wall to wall — it literally went up a wall — brown shag carpet from the sunroom, but it felt like home. It felt like a place we could start a family.

This kitchen. Oh my. Come see!


Random Thoughts

June 13, 2016


Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Well, Hello. Welcome to June’s installment of my random thoughts. Feel free to share your own random thoughts in the comments.

- Like you, I woke up yesterday to the horrific news about the mass-murder in Orlando. Like you, I’m feeling all the feelings. I’m simply heartbroken for the victims and their families. I’m distressed and disturbed that in 2016 there is still so much hate directed at gay people, that coming out is a very dangerous thing, requiring more bravery than I will likely ever have to muster. I’m angry that there are still people in my life who aren’t willing to consider serious gun law reform. I’m sickened as I read the statistics showing plainly how much more gun violence there is in the U.S. compared to the rest of the world.

Like you, I want to take action, but feel daunted and somewhat helpless. What can I do? I talked my kids and wore my rainbow dress yesterday, I made calls to several senators on this list today, I’m looking up local blood drives to see where I can donate this week. Of course, none of it feels like it will ever be enough. What about you? How are you holding up? What do you do when you feel powerless in the face of tragedy?

I know this is a heavy way to start the post. The rest of my random thoughts are much lighter.

- Yesterday, I took Ben Blair and the 5 oldest kids to the airport. They flew to St. George for our annual Cousins Week. I’ve mentioned it before, but basically, any cousins 8 or older are invited to my sister Sara’s house in St. George for a camp of sorts. It’s a week(ish) of unlimited popsicles, movies whenever you’d like, swimming, sugar cereal, staying up late and bonding with cousins. Each day, some structure is built in with outings, crafts or activities. Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents help out with the structured parts and Sara takes care of the rest. Sara has been hosting Cousins Week since 2009.

Something fun this year: There are four new 8-year-olds joining the group!

- Our whole crew will arrive home from Cousins Week late Thursday night. Till then, June and I are the only ones home. It feels so strange. The house is super quiet and of course, June is missing her best friends. Things I promised June we would do this week in an attempt to relieve her broken heart at not being old enough for cousins week: get mani-pedis, buy a box of Frosted Flakes (her favorite sugar cereal), and shop for a “Chinese dress” (I’m not sure what this is, but she saw something in a window in Chinatown last time we were there and has begged for a “Chinese dress” ever since).

I rarely get extended alone time with one of my kids, so I’m really looking forward to our week together, just me and June.

- We leave to France on Monday. That’s right: 1 week to go! I’m a little overwhelmed by the task list ahead of me this week (and by little, I mean very much so), but I have high hopes it’s all doable — especially since most of the family is out of town. It sure makes a big difference. I have literally zero kid events, kid pick up times, or mandatory kid errands till Friday. That opens up a lot of time!

We’re not staying in La Cressonniere while we’re there, but we’ve found a couple of gorgeous places to rent that are in the same general vicinity — and not too far from our cottage.

- Speaking of which, I’m super, super, super excited to work on The Cottage once we get to France. Last week, we got in touch with our architect in France. We’ll meet with him soon after we arrive and see what we can accomplish over the summer. But I have to keep reminding myself not to get my expectations too high — everything takes longer than I think it will. Hah!

As I’ve mentioned, my daydream when 2016 started was that we would have tons of work on the cottage done from January through June. And then, when we arrived this summer, the hope was that we would use our time for finishing work — painting, choosing a fridge and stove, shopping for beds, etc..

Did that happen? Not even close! Oh well. We’ll see what we can manage this summer. One thing I know for sure: It’s always easier to put things in motion when we’re actually on site. And even with the much slower timeline, I still can’t wipe the grin from my face when I think about making improvement to our little piece of French countryside.

- My sister Jordan is about to have her baby, and I won’t be here to help. It is killing me! I’ve never lived close enough to watch the kids or bring dinner before, and now I do, but I’ll be out of the country. Unfortunate travel timing on my part! Do you live near any of your siblings? Have you ever been able to help them when a baby arrived?

- Tomorrow is my birthday. It will be a celebration for two — just me and June. I generally prefer a very low-key birthday, so that’s fine with me. I’m thinking we’ll get the promised mani-pedi.

balloon banner DIY

I think that’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to anything here, or bring up your own topic. I always love hearing what’s on your minds!

P.S. — I post my random thoughts each month. You can find them all here.


A Few Things

June 10, 2016

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Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! Happy Friday! Today is the first day of summer vacation, and every single member of the family slept in. It was heavenly.

It’s been an epic week. Ralph hit some major, major deadlines, had two full days of shooting, and lots of driving lessons — he’s committed to getting his license before we go to France. Maude finished her classes and student council responsibilities — with exams right through yesterday. She’s feeling emotional about saying goodbye to her senior friends. She herself will be a senior next year and we can hardly believe it.

Olive had an 8th grade promotion ceremony — during the program she gave an introduction in French and sang in the choir. (And did a fantastic job at both!) She’s headed to high school next year and is feeling teary-eyed about the big change. Oscar had a fifth grade promotion ceremony where he gave an excellent speech and had the whole audience in stitches. He heads to middle school next year and is feeling nostalgic and a little melancholy because he can feel how quickly he’s growing up.

Though she was allowed to leave school early yesterday, Betty wanted to stay until the final bell rang. She loves school much more than summer break. Saying goodbye to her friends for the summer just about kills her. June had a kindergarten promotion ceremony. It was adorable (as all kindergarten activities are), and I’m trying to wrap my brain around the fact that our family is done with kindergarten. Unfathomable.

Oh. And Alt Summit registration opened up yesterday, and then sold out by the end of the day!

And now, my attention is turning to our summer in France. We head out so soon! Today I want to work on a basic itinerary, confirm our accommodations and car rentals, and make a list of goals for our time there. But before I get started, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Are you okay with other adults telling your kids what to do?

- Hah! How to make toast for a toddler.

- My life as a sex object.

- John Oliver buys and forgives $15 million worth of medical debt. Super eye-opening.

- Why 70% of kids quit sports by age 13.

- A period ad that positions blood as a strength not a weakness. Thanks, Alison.

- Silly, but made me laugh – the real reason your food takes so long at restaurants. (Some cussing in this one.)

- Why talented Black and Hispanic students can go undiscovered. (NYT)

- Whaaaa!? These Japanese students hatched chicks outside their eggs.

- Your fat friend doesn’t need your health concern.

- LA is turning old hotels into apartments for homeless vets.

- A little dose of nostalgia for anyone in my age range.

I hope you have an excellent weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.


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